What's Great And What's Not About Telecommuting A recent survey suggests that around 17 million Americans work from home or another remote location at least one day every month. Many telecommuters cheer their escape from drive time and office politics. But they also worry that bosses consider the move a career killer.
NPR logo

What's Great And What's Not About Telecommuting

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/111328733/111328263" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
What's Great And What's Not About Telecommuting

What's Great And What's Not About Telecommuting

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/111328733/111328263" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington.

There's a good chance you're listening to us right now in your workspace, whether that's your office or cubicle, in your home, your car, maybe in the Starbuck's down the street. The number who telecommute is hard to pin down partly because the definition is so fluid. Does it mean people who work out of the office every day, or once a week? Self-employed consultants? Unpaid workers?

A recent survey from Telework Trendlines reports that around 17 million Americans work from home or some other remote location at least one day a month. Many telecommuters steer their escape from commuting - cheer their escape from commuting, corporate culture, office politics and the annoying coworker in the cubicle next door. But they also worry their boss considers it a career killer, and not everyone thinks telecommuting is so great - either for the company or its employees.

Later in the program, a self-described fat activist critiques the new reality show, "More to Love." But first, telecommuting. And we want to hear from supervisors and workers today. If you do it, how's it working? What happens when some do and some don't? Our phone number is 800-989-8255. Email: talk@npr.org. And you can join the conversation on our Web site. Go to npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION. We start with Jonathan Weber, publisher and CEO of NewWest.net. That's a media company that covers life and business in the Rocky Mountain West. He joins us from Montana Public Radio in Missoula.

Nice to have you on the program today.

Mr. JONATHAN WEBER (Publisher, CEO of NewWest.net): Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: And wrote in a piece for Slate.com that if somebody in your office there in Missoula would like to work from home without a very good reason, you would say no. How come?

Mr. WEBER: Well, I think that there is a lot that is missed by not being in the office, and a lot of kind of company culture development and interpersonal relationships and collaborative working relationships which are really very difficult when people aren't in the same place. It's not that you can't do it, but - and it's not that it's not something which is necessary and very helpful in many situations. But at the same time, I think if you have a choice, it's much better to be in the office.

CONAN: So all things considered equal, you would say no.

Mr. WEBER: Correct.

CONAN: And - go ahead. I'm sorry.

Mr. WEBER: Yeah, and I was going to say, you know, part of that, too, is that there is a kind of a fairness and equity issue, vis-a-vis, other employees. So if you give one person permission to work from home, then another person has to answer the phone because they're not there, is taking messages for them, is kind of doing other things and maybe starting to feel, well, if that person can work at home, why can't I work at home? And then suddenly, you've got everybody working at home and you've got no company and no sense of common purpose there.

CONAN: So resentments can build up and the office friction can build up, and it's another distraction.

Mr. WEBER: Yes. I think that's right.

CONAN: Nevertheless, for a lot of people, you know, some very talented people may say it's this or nothing.

Mr. WEBER: Right. Well, and when you're - when you have that situation, you have to make that decision. So there are many cases - and we have a lot of telecommuters at NewWest. We cover the Rocky Mountain West. We have a lot of people who are not in the office because they're the Boise correspondent and they're going to be in Boise, for example. So it's not that telecommuting doesn't have a place. But I just think that given the choice, it's better to be in the office. If you have a very talented person who insists on working from home and you think that you really need that person and that talent, you can live with it if you have to. But all other things being equal, I think that there's a lot of power in having people in the same place, working physically close together, communicating very closely and collaborating closely.

CONAN: But can't that be done by conference calls, email, that sort of thing?

Mr. WEBER: Well, I mean, email's a great tool, and there are a lot of great tools out there. But conference calls in particular - I mean, think about a typical conference call. If it's a very directed thing with a very specific, quick agenda, that's one thing. But if you're trying to have a brainstorming session or you're trying to deal with more complex or in-depth issues, what you end up with is four people in the office sitting around the table. You've got three people on the phone. The people on the phone can't quite hear. They're sort of annoyed because they can't hear well enough. They're only half paying attention, partly because they can't hear. So they're, like, doing their email.

And then you address them, and they say, oh, what? You talking to me? And the whole flow of the meeting is lost. It's just very difficult to have the kind of dynamic that you have with everybody sitting around the table if some of the people are on the phone. It just doesn't work nearly as well, in my experience.

CONAN: We're talking with Jonathan Weber, publisher and CEO of NewWEst.com. And - excuse me, .net. And that's a company that covers life in the - business in the Rocky Mountain West. We're talking, though, about the up and downsides of telecommuting, both for supervisors and for workers. 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. How's it working for you? Let's go with Elliot. Elliot joins us from San Francisco.

ELLIOT (Caller): Yes, hi. My comment is that - as manager of telecommuters, a lot of times, I've seen other managers who just don't have a clue as to whether their employees are doing any work or not. And so they substitute the walking around and seeing whether their employees look busy with having clear metrics of what a good job is, a clear idea of what they expect from their employees and deadlines.

I've seen where it's been very clear whether employees are working or not is in the sales organization, for example. And that's an organization where you never want your employee in the office. And that's because you have a metric: Did they make the sale or not? But in software development or marketing, it's much more mushy, and people don't really understand what they expect of their teams are the ones who get in trouble when they try and manage telecommuters.

CONAN: Yeah, you - the point should be made, it's just as easy to play "Battleship" in your cubicle as it is to do at home when you're supposed to be working. But clear metrics, if you're supervising telecommuters, Jonathan Weber, a good idea to have clear understandings of how much they're expected to do.

Mr. WEBER: Yeah. I think that's absolutely right. And I think that the point of the caller is very well taken in that the real issue with supervising and accountability and making sure people are doing their job does not have to do with looking over their shoulder - physically looking over their shoulder. It has to do with them understanding what the expectations are and having accountability in that way. One of the things that I've always loved about the media business is that it's a very accountable business. I'm supervising reporters and salespeople, and most of those jobs are things where, you know, the story is there and it's good or it's not, and it's not. So I don't find the issue with telecommuting, for me, to be the question of whether people are working or not or whether they're goofing off at home or not. That's actually not something I worry about.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Elliot.

ELLIOT: All right, thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. And let's bring in another voice. Tom Wailgum works from home. He's senior editor at CIO, an information technology and business magazine. He joins us from the studios of New Hampshire Public Radio in Concord. And it's good of you to be with us today.

Mr. TOM WAILGUM (Senior Editor, CIO): Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: And you wrote a piece for CIO.com about the dirty little secrets of telecommuting, and you say this is really about respect - or rather, the lack of same. And I think we had some reference to it in Elliot's phone call, too.

Mr. WAILGUM: Absolutely. One of things I think that studies have shown is no matter if a company says, yes, you can telecommute, it's up to you, there's still a stigma attached to people who telecommute - even today. I would look back to a survey that CompTIA did in 2007, and it showed that, you know, 60 percent of companies were - the people who were telecommuting were actually productive. They were very productive. And, however, those 61 percent of surveyed executives believe that, you know, telecommuters are less likely to advance in their careers when compared with employees who work in the traditional office setting. So there's a real…

CONAN: Even though they're productive, they're not seen as being committed to the company.

Mr. WAILGUM: Exactly. Because they're - they don't have that face time. And I think that's what Jonathan, you know, likes. And think a lot of people, you know, have to have those personal relationships. But I would to point today, that, you know, the sea change we're all witnessing is that the Facebook and the Twitter and the Web 2.0 is really having - people are building relationships online. It is natural, especially when you look at the next generation of workers.

If they have a laptop, a mobile device and an Internet connection, they're good to go. I mean, we've moved well beyond the industrial age here of the worker bees and the time clocks. And I think Jonathan(ph) made a good point about deliverables, and if they're not delivering, then they're not doing their job and they should not be able to have the benefit. But there has got to be that trust and expectation and deliverables, and I think that's important.

CONAN: We have this email on the career-killer part of what you were just mentioning. I worked as a full-time copywriter at a small advertising agency in New York, writes Harold(ph) in Southampton, New York, and I had a two-hour commute each way to work. As an 11-year employee, I requested telecommuting a few days a week and was told by my boss it would be fine. Not long thereafter, due to a loss of a client, I was laid off with no severance, no notice. A second copywriter was kept on staff, but I think the fact that I telecommuted endangered it, engendered ill will among the full-timers. That's why I was laid off. So telecommuting has its advantages and its inherent risks. So that goes to your point there, Tom.

Mr. WAILGUM: Yeah, I would also add, too, you know, sometimes I do have to commute back into Boston, to the office, and as I'm sitting there on 95 and the turnpike, just looking at all these people sitting in their cars like corpses, and I just - I think, what a colossal waste of time, energy, productivity that we're doing here, just sitting here by commuting an hour and a half to two hours, and I think that's what's important, that all managers should understand, is that first off, security gets thrown out there as a limiter.

But today, and I talk to CIOs about this, is there's actually nothing from a technological perspective that should prevent anyone, you know, knowledge workers, from telecommuting today. The security is there, the teleconferencing, the instant messaging, the email, the virtual private networks, that's been figured out.

However, and it's kind a big however, is, you know, people can't do anything stupid, whereas, you know, you've seen reports about people sending sensitive government files to their Yahoo or Gmail accounts. That's stupidity. That kind of gives working from home a bad name. So I think people have to adhere to the security regulations, and if they do that, then it's totally fine.

CONAN: They're not sitting there like corpses in their cars, they're being vastly entertained by public radio. That's where we make our money there, Tom. Be careful about that.

Mr. WAILGUM: That's right. Sorry about that, Neal. They're entertained corpses.

CONAN: They're entertained corpses. So I just have to ask. We're just about to go to a break, but does the perception now, since Wi-Fi is almost everywhere, that they're not just working from their home office, they're working by the pool. Does that engender even more resentments, do you think?

Mr. WAILGUM: Maybe, perhaps. But again, I always go back to whether you're at a Starbucks or in your car or, you know, in your parents' basement, wherever, if you're getting your work done, if you're satisfying what you've set off to deliver, then you can work from wherever you want. Who cares?

CONAN: All right. Tom Wailgum, stay with us, and Jonathan Weber, too. We're talking about telecommuting this hour. Are you working in your jammies? How's it going? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Many of you may hear this program while you work, barefoot, in your home office. We're talking about the pros and cons of telecommuting this hour with Tom Wailgum, a senior editor at CIO, an information, technology and business magazine, and with Jonathan Weber, publisher and CEO of a media company called NewWest.net.

We want to hear from supervisors and from workers today. If you do it, how's it working for you? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org, and feel free to join the conversation on our Web site at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

And let's go next to Amy(ph), Amy with us from Milwaukee.

AMY (Caller): Hi, thank you for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

AMY: I had just left a business meeting and turned you guys on and heard about commuting and telecommuting. And I wanted to just let you know, I have been in the legal marketing profession for about 15 years and always working in-house at law firms or associations and recently, in the last nine months, became a principal of a virtual company, which now with the increased broadband and every laptop having a Webcam built in, we have a company that provides consulting for professional service providers - lawyers, CPAs, architects - and it is all done on the Web. And it's virtually a conference room where everybody can chat with one another, exchange ideas.

It's not like a conference call, where people are multi-tasking. It literally is a virtual boardroom, and we do all of our business over this platform. It's associations, individual firms, individual service providers, you know, buy seats and/or rooms on this platform. And that's how business is done because travel is too expensive. People don't have, you know, the time or the money to travel to large conferences or to training sessions, and so it's all done on the Web, and it's all live, and it's very possible.

I left, you know, working in an office every day, and I literally will put a nice blouse on and a pair of, you know, fuzzy slippers, and nobody can see me from, you know, the waist down. So it's perfect, and we're quite successful with it, and we do business all over the world.

CONAN: So Jonathan Weber, it sounds like technology, a better virtual-office platform is the answer to your awkward conference-call problem.

Mr. WEBER: Oh, I think that the kind of solution that she was talking about can certainly help. Video, if you have video in addition to audio and better technological solution, that can certainly help address the problem. But I still feel that there's a lot of kind of subtle, non-verbal, even non-visual types of communication that go on all the time, and a lot of that is just lost.

You know, and to go back to a point that Tom was making earlier, on the one hand, yes there can be discrimination against telecommuters or seeming discrimination because, you know, out of sight, out of mind. But that's, you know, that's kind of the nature of the beast.

You know, if you're not there, if you're not there building that human relationship, going out to lunch with the boss, establishing kind of a personal connection to your co-workers, then when things change or someone's going to get laid off, you're going to be more vulnerable. And I don't know if that's discrimination, or if that's just the nature of the beast.

CONAN: It may not be…

AMY: Neal, can I - I'm still on. I apologize, but I think that what is being lost with that is life is always fast. I mean, you know, the tangible handshake and stuff, but in this economy, in this day and age, a lot of that is impossible. And would we like to visit every single client all the time? Absolutely, but people cannot afford to do that. And ultimately, you pass along, you know, savings to your clients and help solve problems, which at this point is usually economic, by using and embracing technology. And I think that companies and company owners need to realize that, that you know, in the long run, it really does help everyone to embrace this and, you know, to think of alternative ways to do business because it's just too costly now.

CONAN: Well, Jonathan - we'll get to you in a second, Tom, but Jonathan did mention he does use, you know, people working outside the office, in bureaus all around the West. It's not like he doesn't use it; he just doesn't prefer it. Anyway, you were going to say, Tom? I didn't mean to interrupt.

Mr. WAILGUM: No, no, I'm sorry to interrupt you. You know, there are - getting to that caller's point, there are real business savings that we're talking about here. CISCO, for example, the networking vendor in California, just released a study in June, and they have saved more than $277 million by letting - I think it's over 20,000 of its employees work from home. And that's not including $10 million per year in gas savings that they estimate. And the last thing, and I think this is key, is their employees, through surveys, are happier, much, much happier working for CISCO.

And then the second point I would just add is, you know, with the green movement today, getting rid of cars off the roads, we are reducing our carbon footprint. And my wife and I, we were able to lose one of our cars. We only have one car, which has saved thousands and also done our little part for the environment. So I think there's two big benefits that are real and can have a big impact.

CONAN: Let's turn to Jim(ph), Jim calling from Buffalo.

JIM (Caller): Hey, how are you?

CONAN: Very well.

JIM: I have an exactly opposite situation of that. I have a client - I won't go into real specifics because it's easy for him to figure out who I'm talking about - but they had a worker around the office who had some hygiene issues, among other things, and they actually requested him to start telecommuting because numerous intervention attempts did nothing. And their only other choice would have been to fire him because no one would work with him. They couldn't stand sitting in the cubicle next to him because you couldn't breathe.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: That's another solution. Jim, I presume his work was good enough to encourage him to stay with the company, nevertheless.

JIM: You know, I didn't follow up on that one…

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Jim. Here's one on the other side from Randall(ph) in Hollywood, California. As the father of a three-year-old, I would never get anything accomplished if I worked at home every day. So there's that aspect of it, too. Let's go…

Mr. WAILGUM: Neal, if there's one thing that I could suggest for anyone thinking about it, the most important piece is the door.

CONAN: A door.

Mr. WAILGUM: You need to have a door.

CONAN: Yes, for the home office, indeed. Let's see if we can go to Mark(ph), and Mark's with us from Muncie, Indiana.

MARK (Caller): Yes. I just want to say one of the - my office closed down in April. They just said, hey, you're all working from home now, and part of the issue I have is my family thinks that I have free time now to do things for them.

I'm in trouble when I don't have dinner ready when - my wife gets home at night. And I've - almost everybody I've heard talked to, I've agreed with. Mr. Weber, I do have problems on conference calls, paying attention, not being distracted by my email or other items. And then the other item about promotions. I think right now, my career is on a plateau as long as I'm working from home.

CONAN: But you do it anyway.

MARK: I don't have much of a choice. You know, find another job, and right now is not the time to be going out and finding another job. I am a technical person. Most of my interface is with a computer, and the computers I deal with, I'm in Muncie, Indiana. The computers I deal with are in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Auburn Hills, Michigan.

CONAN: So yeah, there's actually no other choice. Mark, thanks very much for the call, appreciate it.

MARK: Well, thank you.

CONAN: And we'd like to thank Jonathan Weber for his time today and very good of you to join us.

Mr. WEBER: Thank you, Neal, my pleasure.

CONAN: And he gets the benefit of actually working in a beautiful place, in Missoula, Montana, and joined us today from the studios of Montana Public Radio. He is the publisher and CEO of NewWest.net, a media company covering life and business in the Rocky Mountain West.

We keep saying working at home, yet with Wi-Fi, the proliferation of which makes it possible to work, well, in a lot of different places. And because of that, people can work at the coffee shop or at the Panera store or almost anywhere, but nevertheless, this can get lonely.

Our next guest came up with an idea to make working outside the office more social, by creating what he calls a Jelly. Amit Gupta joins us now from the studios of member station KQED in San Francisco. Nice to have you with us today.

Mr. AMIT GUPTA (Co-founder, Jelly): Thanks Neal, good to be here.

CONAN: And what's a Jelly?

Mr. GUPTA: Basically, a Jelly is an event. They occur every couple weeks or every month or every week, depending on the city, where a bunch of people come together and they work together for the day. They work on whatever they're working on normally, but they're working in proximity to each other. And it attracts both independents, people who are writers or software developers or entrepreneurs, but also people who work at larger companies that are looking for a change of pace or a different working environment for the day.

CONAN: And people who just miss having other people to bounce ideas off of, even if those ideas are the bad jokes their spouse told them that night.

Mr. GUPTA: Exactly. Yeah, I think - well, when we started it, I think it was - largely grown out of personal need. My friend Lou Crawford(ph) and I were working from home, and we missed having all those - you know, we didn't miss the office politics, but we missed having the water-cooler jokes and the ability to just walk down the hall and talk to somebody and brainstorm. And that's part of what Jelly is about, bringing that back in, in a quantity that is actually productive.

CONAN: And it's that sort of social interaction, even if it's on the basis of, did you see that show on TV last night? Well, that just sort of makes life - it lubricates our existence a little bit.

Mr. GUPTA: I think so, and I think it makes it a little bit more tolerable. When you're sitting at home, especially, and you feel kind of isolated, it's easy to not only just feel isolated from humanity but also to feel isolated from your professional community. And something actually we started to do this year, which is really new for us, is we've noticed that a lot of the people who come to Jellies tend to be in the technology sector. So we've started a speaker series. And we bring a speaker to an individual Jelly, whether it's from Chicago or New York or San Francisco or in L.A., and we broadcast them out with the help of our sponsor, Yahoo, and take them to all the Jellies live, and people can ask questions. And we bring in people from, you know, cutting-edge tech companies like Google and Yahoo and Twitter and so forth.

CONAN: And presumably you could bring them in on a feed from some remote location. But in the spirit of the Jelly, you bring them in live.

Mr. GUPTA: Exactly. And they get broadcast out to the other Jellies that are occurring at the same time. So they are set out. But I guess it's just an example of a way that we can help people who are feeling a little disconnected because they're working from home and not only give them a local community, but also give them a broader community to be a part of.

CONAN: And do you charge for this privilege of sitting around with other people and sharing jokes?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GUPTA: No, we don't. We don't sell a lot of jokes. We don't charge for the privilege either.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: And obviously you can bounce ideas off. Say, you work at a marketing company, what would you think of blah, blah, blah?

Mr. GUPTA: Exactly, yeah. I think that's the gist of it, I think. There's been a lot of professional connections that were formed out of it, a lot of collaborations that have come out of it. And that kind of thing is just natural when you have creative people coming together.

CONAN: And let me anticipate the 75 emails that I'm sure are stacked up with this question: Why is it called a Jelly?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GUPTA: We were trying to come up with a catchy name. We were sitting around the kitchen table. We used to host these things in Manhattan. And there's a bowl of jelly beans on the table. I wish I had a better story for you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Now, you started this, as you mentioned, in New York City. You've since moved to San Francisco. You're joining us from KQED there today. Have you set one up there?

Mr. GUPTA: Yeah, we have one here about once a month. There's about a hundred different cities that host them now.

CONAN: And so these have taken on lives of their own?

Mr. GUPTA: They have - yeah. They're all very much self-motivated. Somebody comes to the site and they look at the guide, they figure out how to set one up and they organize it themselves.

CONAN: And if you wanted to organize one, where would you go to get that information?

Mr. GUPTA: Well, I'd hope you'd go to workatjelly.com.

CONAN: Workatjelly.com. We'll put a link to that up on our Web site. And when are you going to your next Jelly?

Mr. GUPTA: Next week, actually.

CONAN: Next week. And where - in San Francisco?

Mr. GUPTA: Yeah. I think it's next week.

CONAN: All right. Well, thanks very much. And good luck with this.

Mr. GUPTA: Sure. Thank you.

CONAN: Amit Gupta is co-founder of Jelly. He spoke with us from the studios of member station KQED in San Francisco. And again, you can go to our Web site at npr.org to learn more about how Jellies work.

And you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Still with us is Tom Wailgum, a senior editor at CIO, an information technology and business magazine, who wrote a story for cio.com called "The Dirty Little Secrets of Telecommuting."

And let's see if we can get another caller on the line. And Kirsten is with us from Jacksonville.

KIRSTEN (Caller): Hi. How are you?

CONAN: Very well. Thanks.

KIRSTEN: Good. I'm a longtime listener, first-time caller. I just wanted to point out that it's not easy to get away from your job when you work at home. I work at home. I'm a single mother. My ex-husband had lost his job, so I'm basically the only income coming in.

And right now if someone calls me at 9:00 at night or if one of my team members, which I have one, is living in Alaska, which is a four-hour difference - I'm on the East Coast, you know, you may be on the phone at 9:00 at night or 10:00 at night. Or if someone's in India, you may be on the phone at 2:00 in the morning.

CONAN: So any time you may have saved commuting, you're certainly losing on the other end of the time change?

KIRSTEN: Sure. And you know, and in this economy, it's not so easy when someone does call you late or off your quote-quote "working hours."

I mean I really don't have working hours. I'm on my email at 6:30 in the morning, and there's times when I'm - I routinely check my email before I go to bed at night, which is 10, 11:00. So it makes for a long day.

But you know, there are perks. I have young children. And if one of them is sick, you know, I don't have to worry about what I'm going to do with them, how I'm, going to get my job done. Makes it a little more stressful, of course.

But there was another caller that said, you know, my family thinks that I have all this free time now, which I can agree with 100 percent.

There's definitely pros and cons. For me, this is what I do. This is how I, you know - I've - my company is having layoffs on a quarterly basis and I can't take the chance that I'm going to be on that list. So if someone does call me late or off my hours, I'm going to do what I need to do.

CONAN: Tom Wailgum, this is one of the things you wrote about in your "15 Things I Miss About the Office."

Mr. WAILGUM: Yes, I did mention some of this. And I think she makes a great point. It is - you have to kind of come to a point where this is who I am, this is my life right now. It probably won't last this way forever, but there are tradeoffs. And you have to set clear boundaries with your family if you can. You have to have the door, as I mentioned, also helps. And it definitely takes a different type of person.

I kind of describe it as a listy type of person. This is what I'm going to get done today, X, Y and Z. And I'm not going to let that pile of laundry or…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. WAILGUM: …the grass outside that needs to be mowed distract me from what I need to get done. But on the flip side, you get so much flexibility.

KIRSTEN: That's true. And the other thing that I would say is, you know, it is a tradeoff. And I don't expect that I will be doing this. And honestly, I wish there were - I just heard the section on the Jellies.

I do miss seeing people every day. It - I used to go into a site every day. They shut down that site, and all of a sudden I'm a work-at-home employee.

So, you know, if you're a social person, I agree 100 percent with what your guest was saying, was, you know, people miss the water cooler conversations. Hey, did you see that news piece? Or…

CONAN: Yeah.

KIRSTEN: You know, there is none of that. So, you know, it's very solitary and at times can be - you know, it's quite an adjustment to go from going somewhere and seeing people every day to not having to. So…

CONAN: Well, Kirsten, good luck.

KIRSTEN: Thank you.

CONAN: Appreciate the phone call.


CONAN: This email we have from Brad in Minnesota: How can you possibly have the same company dynamics when people are not in the same place? I'm writing from the workplace at the Minnesota Public Radio. We couldn't do what we do with fast-paced changes for radio if we are trying to organize shows from home. Could TALK OF THE NATION run with a staff that wasn't physically together? Nothing replaces good old-fashioned talking it out in person with the staff. And again, Tom Wailgum, some jobs just adapt well to this and some don't.

Mr. WAILGUM: You're absolutely right. I mean, not every job is going to be able to do this, and then I'm not here to say it is. But like I said before, if you have a laptop and a mobile device and a broadband connection, you can work anywhere. And the stigma - I guess that's what I'm hoping, that the stigma is just removed, because there are people who can do this and they can do it very well. And I've been doing it for five years. And the thought of going back to the office and doing a commute scares me to death.

CONAN: Tom Wailgum, the senior editor at CIO, joined us from New Hampshire Public Radio in Concord. You can read his two stories on the up and downsides of telecommunicating on our Web site at npr.org.

Thanks very much for being with us today.

Mr. WAILGUM: Thank you.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.